Authentic Servant Leadership

by NRC
3 min read
March 21, 2017

-Coffee Break Webinar-

How can you transform into a stronger, more genuine and inspirational leader? As government is under the magnifying glass these days, leadership built on trust and authenticity is more important than ever. National Research Center, Inc. (NRC) welcomes former City Manager and Strategic Government Resources CEO Ron Holifield to share insider knowledge on how to become a more effective and sincere local government leader.

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What is VUCA?

VUCA is an acronym created by the U.S. Army War College that stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. These are indicators of leadership context in modern society. The primary role of a leader is to recruit, assess and develop culture creation and succession planning. Innovation, collaboration and authenticity are key characteristics of leaders who thrive in a VUCA world.  Servant leaders must also become RADICAL.


RADICAL may seem like a bold acronym to assign to leadership, but by definition means “back to the roots.” As defined by Holifield, RADICAL stands for Recruit, Assess, Develop, Innovate, Collaborate, Authentic, Leaders. RADICAL captures the constructive tension between managing healthy relationships and leading edge innovative thinking. Servant leadership provides the well-balanced value system to create and manage that constructive tension in a VUCA world.

12 Characteristics of the Servant Leader

In 1970 Robert Greenleaf identified 12 characteristics of a servant leader. Falling under the scope of nurturing healthy relationships are characteristics such as listening, empathy, healing, nurturing the spirit and building community. Traits for leading innovative change include awareness, foresight, conceptualization, persuasion, calling and stewardship. The characteristic of commitment to the growth of people around you crosses over both facets of servant leadership.

Unifying Principles of a Servant Leader

Holifield has carefully identified several principles to practice as a servant leader. Treat everyone with dignity and respect in every interaction. Select team members who strive for professional excellence. Develop and empower leaders at every level to prepare for the future. Prepare people before you promote them. Seek continuous improvement personally and operationally. Make integrity matter most in every circumstance. Remember that leadership is not just about you or what’s going on right now, and it never is.

Transformational Accelerators

Servant leadership is a constant practice that is only achieved through awareness and action. Servant leaders are recognized by their high level of credibility, commitment to communication, training at every organizational level, transparency and dialogue throughout any plan with tangible progress markers. Servant leaders improve processes for efficiency and are those that middle management-level employees naturally follow.

Key Systems to Align

Servant leaders must polish certain processes in order to be successful. These include brand and reputation management, recruitment and selection of employees, on-boarding of new employees, developing and investing in employees, performance coaching, promotion and developing overall organizational culture. Local government today must examine performance evaluation vs. aspirational coaching to foster and develop leaders at every level.

The Athenian Oath

The people of ancient Athens were passionate and committed to serving their city with an authentic style of leadership. The Athenian Oath states:

“We will never bring disgrace on this our City by an act of dishonesty or cowardice. We will fight for the ideals and Sacred Things of the City both alone and with many. We will revere and obey the City’s laws, and will do our best to incite a like reverence and respect in those above us who are prone to annul them or set them at naught. We will strive unceasingly to quicken the public’s sense of civic duty. Thus, in all these ways we will transmit this City not only, not less, but greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.”

Ron Holifield is an accomplished author, public speaker and consultant specializing in employee training and the professional development of next generation leaders. His latest book, 4th Dimension Leadership: A Radical Strategy for Creating an Authentic Servant Leadership Culture, breaks through uncomfortable territory to reveal the core of true leadership excellence.

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